Dangerous Lake-Effect Snowstorm Moves Into Western NY

A long-duration lake-effect snowstorm is expected to bury parts of western and northern New York.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Thursday for parts of western New York ahead of a dangerous storm that had the potential to dump several feet of snow on some communities on the eastern ends of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

The worst snowfall was expected in Buffalo, where the National Weather Service said up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) might fall in some spots through Sunday, with periods of near-zero visibility. Other areas could get a foot (0.3 meters) or less of the lake-effect snow, which is caused by frigid air picking up copious amounts of moisture from the warmer lakes.

Lake-effect snow forms when cold, dry air from Canada, moves across the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes. In this case, Lake Erie. As the cold air moves over the lake, warmth and moisture from the lake rise and create clouds. These clouds then create narrow bands of snow that are capable of producing up to 4 inches of snowfall per hour.

Official NWS Buffalo Forecast

Hochul’s state of emergency covers 11 counties, with commercial truck traffic banned from a stretch of Interstate 90 after 4 p.m. Thursday.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a driving ban beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday, shortly after heavy snow punctuated by thunder and lightning moved into Buffalo, quickly covering the ground and roads. The most intense snowfall was expected to last through Friday evening, with more falling on Saturday into Sunday.

Administrators canceled Friday classes for students in Buffalo and throughout the county. Amtrak stations in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Depew closed Thursday and will stay closed Friday, The Buffalo News reported, while numerous flights in and out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled.

“I want western New Yorkers to take this seriously,” Hochul said.

Also ahead of the storm, the NFL announced it would relocate the Buffalo Bills’ home game against the Cleveland Browns to Detroit on Sunday.

The switch in sites means the Bills will play back-to-back games in Detroit, as they are scheduled to play the Lions on Thanksgiving.

The weather service also warned of accumulations of 2 feet (0.6 meters) or more of snow in northern New York on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario, and in parts of northern Michigan through Sunday.